Saturday, January 21, 2006

Reminder: Still No World Class Homeland Security

I attended the first "After the Storm" forum at Loyola University New Orleans the other night. It was a virtually packed house. Susan Spicer, Eddie Bo, John Biguenet, and Lolis Eric Elie, along with some academics, discussed the future of New Orleans culture.

Lolis made an important point: New Orleans culture is surviving and will survive. He said he had used a worried tone in asking Ellis Marsalis about New Orleans culture's future after Katrina, and Ellis was completely dismissive of the question. "The culture's not going nowhere," Ellis replied. "It's still here."

I was struck by another crucial point (not centered on culture) that John Biguenet made. Katrina proved that four years after 9/11, we now know that we are in no way prepared for a disaster (manmade, Qaedamade, Corpsmade, or otherwise) in even a medium-sized American city. Mayor's office folks had to break in to Office Depot to get equipment just to stay in touch with Baton Rouge.

Why doesn't every mayor of the top 100 cities in the country have a federally issued satellite phone, checked weekly for functionality? Is this so difficult?

The hacks in charge in D.C. sold us a bill of goods--the MBA presidency, corporate efficiency, accountability. We should have known there was trouble when no one of consequence lost his or her job after 9/11.

This post is not fraught with world class positive energy. I know. I just believe that we must remember: the President and his fellow Republicans in Congress made 9/11 out to be a defining moment for America. They were right. It has proven that we are too lazy, financially incestuous, comfortable, and self-satisfied to learn from past mistakes.

In so many ways, New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast are straws in the wind for much of the rest of the country. Coastal erosion, habitat loss, environmental pollution, lax preparation for catastrophes--these are not uniquely New Orleans things. Does anybody out there understand that? Or are they too busy?

Please understand, America: nobody has your back. Better to understand that now.

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